Red & Black (Published April 3, 2021)
Members of Hillel at University of Georgia and UGA Black Student Union came together to hose the Racial Justice Shabbat on March 26, discussing their experiences as minorities on campus and what they can do to become better allies for underrepresented communities.
The event started with Black Student Union chair Joshua Patton explaining the organization's involvement in the university’s Black community and ways he’s seen a decline in group participation because of the pandemic. He also explained the adversities Black students face on campus due to feelings of isolation, lack of representation and other factors relating to the minority group’s overall marginalized presence.
“When I came to [freshman] orientation, I saw that there were two orientation leaders that looked like me,” Patton said. “You may sometimes feel as if you’re by yourself.”
Jeremy Lichtig, assistant director of UGA’s Hillel chapter, introduced and explained the origins of Hillel and how the community serves as a safe space for students of a faith and ethnic group so rarely represented.
Antisemitism was openly discussed, citing an incident from November 2019 where a visiting Clemson University student drew swastikas on students’ doors in Russell Hall.
Sarah Schafer, a landscape architecture student, detailed the history of antisemitism around the world, which led to the creation of false stereotypes and tropes that plague Jewish people today.
After both groups presented, a Q&A session ensued where everyone was free to ask about the topics covered during the meeting. Students on both sides were able to bond over acts of intolerance they’ve witnessed or experienced during their time on campus.
Patton remembered the racist remarks from a Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity member aimed at Black student Arianna Mbunwe earlier this year over the app GroupMe and the slurs in a viral video leading to the suspension of UGA’s chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon in 2019.
The Jewish students recalled struggling with professors who scheduled assignments on days of observance, like Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana, calling it a difficult decision to choose between their faith and their education.
“You can technically go to a higher power, but because it’s case-by-case, you kind of just hope your professor doesn’t assign anything then,” said junior computer science major Jenna Schulman. “I’ve had professors brush it off and be like, ‘Well, do you really have to do that?’”
And for Jewish people, the conversation of identity becomes even more complex. Ellie Reingold, a junior interdisciplinary theater and animation student, explained racism existed within the Jewish community, as well. As Judaism is both an ethnicity and religion, it’s common for white-passing Jewish people to discriminate against Jewish people of color, Reingold said.
It’s because of this discrimination, both within and outside the community, that white-passing Jewish people have felt intersectionality wasn’t an option for them.
Schafer admitted she struggled with choosing to blend in with the racial majority she falls into or embrace her ethnicity with pride. She admits to taking pride in her heritage now and views it as something that makes her unique in the College of Environment and Design.
“Considering I’m both, I don’t really know if I can choose between one or the other,” she said. “I talk about it nonstop to my friend, just to make it known that I can be both white and Jewish — be both in a majority and a minority.”